NAGS HEAD, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - A dead humpback whale washed onto shore in a North Carolina region that’s popular with vacationers.
Photos show the body of the massive creature resting in the surf on the Outer Banks, a series of barrier islands.
The 20-foot whale was found on the beach, and officials determined it recently died, Jennette’s Pier said Friday in a news release. The grim discovery was made in Nags Head, a coastal town roughly 200 miles east of Raleigh.
So what happens next?
“It’s likely the Town of Nags Head will use heavy equipment to dispose of the whale,” which will probably be buried in the sand, officials said Friday afternoon.
Earlier that day, the animal had a necropsy — an autopsy for animals, according to Karen Clark, program director for the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and leader with the Outer Banks Marine Mammal Standing Network, which responded to the whale Thursday.
Though officials didn’t say how the whale died, animals can strand due to disease, water conditions, boat strikes and other factors, according to the network’s website.
Stranding means a marine animal is dead on shore or alive with no way to get to the water, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.
The dead creature was discovered amid an “unusual mortality event” for humpback whales on the Atlantic Ocean, according to NOAA.
Since January 2016, officials have reported 117 beached humpback whales from Maine to Florida.
Earlier this year, another member of the same species was found dead in Corolla, a community on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, The News & Observer reported.
Humpback whales can weigh “up to 40 tons” and grow to 60 feet long, according to NOAA Fisheries.